3 Useful Things To Know About Cultural Appropriation and K-pop

3 Useful Things To Know About Cultural Appropriation and K-pop

 

It was great to be a part of the “Black Popular Music and K-pop” panel at #KCON17LA. The session was lively! In light of that discussion, here are three things that may be useful as people continue to think about the session or for those who could not attend. The session was important, not just for black K-pop fans to voice their experiences, but for ALL fans of K-pop, since we are getting joy from the influence of black popular music on K-pop.

What is Cultural Appropriation….REALLY?

Cultural appropriation is a term that comes from academia, used in a variety of scholarly fields, where it was a neutral concept. In Cultural Appropriation and the Arts, James O. Young notes that it has since come to mean something different:

It does not necessarily carry with it any moral baggage. Someone might prefer to use the concept of cultural appropriation to designate an objectionable class of transactions. Such people would distinguish cultural appropriation from cultural exchange or cultural borrowing, which could be unobjectionable. (5)

Young goes on to apply the concept “to any use of something developed in one cultural context by someone who belongs to another culture” (5). This is neutral. However, when people use the term in relation to K-pop, they often tend to do so to point out negative appropriation, where the cultural use is objectionable.

BUT, appropriation is inevitable when cultures come into contact with each other. Young says, “Almost all artists engage in some sort of appropriation in that they borrow ideas, motifs, plots, technical devices, and so forth from other artists (4).

So how can we tell the difference between the inevitable cultural exchange and negative appropriation? I like Elizabeth Jaikaran‘s three questions to pose when wondering if something is negative cultural appropriation in “The Discussion We Need to Have: Cultural Appropriation vs. Cultural Appreciation:”

Is the cultural element that is being used exclusive to my own cultural tradition?

Is the institution using this element a truly problematic one that is harmful to my culture’s dignity?

Based on the answers gleaned from 1 and 2, is this appropriation or appreciation?

This may be helpful for K-pop fans trying to make sense of what they may perceive as negative appropriation. This involves not only using an element of black popular culture, but doing so in a way that mocks or demeans. So, you can have feelings about some uses of black popular culture by K-pop, but it doesn’t necessarily rise to the level of negative cultural appropriation.

The Interracial Roots of Black Popular Music

Some people feel some kind of way about the influence of black music on K-pop. Black popular music been used by those who did not always acknowledge the source of the music, but it has also been made and appreciated by those outside of the culture. Black popular music itself appropriates (in the neutral sense!) from other cultures and it has operated as an inviting site where everyone is welcome.   For example, Robin D.G. Kelley notes that anyone can have soul:

Soul was a euphemism or a creative way of identifying what many believed was a black aesthetic or black style, and it was a synonym for black itself or a way to talk about being black without reference to color, which is why people of other ethnic groups could have soul. . . . It was almost never conceived by African Americans as an innate, genetically derived feature of black life (26-6).

To say that only black people can like, enjoy or participate in black music is essentialist and contradicted by the history of black music. Black popular music in the United States historically provided a space where black and white musicians could come together to make some of the most memorable music, including jazz, rock, R&B and hip-hop.  The documentary Muscle Shoals shows how white musicians from Alabama provided the instrumentation for some of the most soulful records ever produced during the segregation era.  Def Jam Records, iconic in American hip-hop, was founded by Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin, a white music producer who began as a college kid running music production out of his NYU dorm room.

Moreover, black people are very involved in the production of K-pop, including Ebony Rae Vanderveer and Bruce “Automatic” Vanderveer of InRage Entertainment, who were instrumental in bringing the “Black American Music and K-pop” panel to KCON. Looking at the production credits for K-pop music reveals a plethora of black music producers who have solid credentials in American R&B and hip-hop.

The heart of black popular music is not exclusionary and K-pop artists do recognize the roots of black music. This can be seen in recorded radio show appearances by K-pop artists like Starry Night, Kiss the Radio, and Shimshimtapa, where they often talk about their influences or through interviews.

A New View on Authenticity

At the heart of the discussions at the panel at KCON was the notion of authenticity, but authenticity can be subjective. It can be impacted by how much knowledge or actual experience a person has. John L. Jackson warns of the limits of authenticity when it is based on “guidelines for proper and improper behavior, for legitimate and illegitimate group membership, for social inclusion or ostracism” that ultimately function to “delimit individuals’ social options” (13). In the case of K-pop, calls for limited forms of authenticity could result in actually excluding people if they do not conform. Different people have notions of what is real, so one person’s opinion that a K-pop artist is being “real” may differ from another. What if one person’s notion of authenticity is based on wrong information? Who gets to decide who is authentic?

Jackson poses an alternative, suggesting that we use the concept of sincerity which recognizes subjectivity and avoids exclusion: “Sincerity privileges intent . . . allowing for the possibility of performative ad-libbing and inevitable acceptance of trust amid uncertainty as the only solution to interpersonal ambiguity” (18). Instead of starting from suspicion and accusations of theft, sincerity leaves room for the possibility that people do not mean harm. A person can be sincere and still get it wrong.  Jackson suggests that we leave open that possibility.

 

Sources

Jackson, John L. Real Black: Adventures in Racial Sincerity. University of Chicago Press, 2005.

Kelley, Robin D.G. Yo Mama’s Disfunktional! Fighting the Culture Wars in Urban America. Beacon Press, 1997.

Young James O. Cultural Appropriation and the Arts. Blackwell Publishing Ltd. doi: 10.1002/9780470694190.ch1

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3 Useful Things To Know About Cultural Appropriation and K-pop by Crystal S. Anderson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

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Panelist at KCON 2017 LA!

Crystal S. Anderson (PhD), Director of KPK: Kpop Kollective will be a panelist at KCON 2017 LA! Panel 502B, “Black American Music and K-pop”, will be on Sunday, August 20, 2:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Hope to see you there!

In the meantime, check out some of my work on Black American Music and K-pop.

Not Just Pretty Faces: K-pop Idols and Quiet Storm Masculinity

Black Popular Music and K-pop

Ethnicity, Glamour and Image in Korean Popular Music

How Does It Feel to be a Question?: That (Black) Girl and K-pop

K-pop and Hip Hop

Of Misconceptions About Cultural Appropriation in K-pop

Talking About Asians Behaving Badly: Fan Reaction to the Block B-Jenny Hyun-MBC Blackface Controversies

 

S.E.S: Remember

S.E.S: Remember

By Crystal S. Anderson, PhD

Research Scholar, Longwood University

Formed in 1997 by SM Entertainment, S.E.S debuted the same year as Baby V.O.X, Jinusean and Sechs Kies and became the first successful female group in the Hallyu K-pop era.  Arriving on the burgeoning K-pop scene in the wake of H.O.T’s success, S.E.S represents the beginning of the female K-pop group.  While some, like Yeran Kim, argue that the group “uniformly featured a girlie image mainly appealing to girl subculture groups,” S.E.S’s career shows how female K-pop groups developed its sound and image over time (338). Kim Chang Nam notes how S.E.S distinguished themselves from other female groups: “S.E.S started off with an image as cute-looking girls and later moved toward more mythical and unrealistic characters” (95).  Like many of the first generation idol groups, S.E.S disbanded within five years, in 2002. The members continued to have careers in the entertainment industry. Bada has gone on to appear in musicals, Eugene continued on as a singer as well as actor in K-dramas and Shoo has subsequently recorded music. In late 2016, S.E.S announced their comeback.

LABELMATES

BoA | Kangta | J-Mi | Dana | Sunday | Henry | Taemin | Zhou Mi | Kyuhyun | Jonghyun | Amber | Taeyeon | Ryeowook | Yesung | Tiffany | Luna | Lay | Seohyun | Hyoyeon | TVXQ | TRAX | CSJH The Grace | Super Junior | Girls’ Generation | SHINee | f(x) | EXO | Red Velvet | NCT

COLLABORATIONS

  1. S.E.S X Fin.K.L X Baby V.O.X X H.O.T

 

Image

“S.E.S 20th anniversary project group photo.png.” kpop wiki. http://kpop.wikia.com/wiki/File:S.E.S_20th_anniversary_project_group_photo.png (28 Jul 2017).

Articles

Kim, Chang Nam.  K-pop: Roots and Blossoming of Korean Popular Music. Seoul: Hollym, 2012.

Kim, Yeran. “Idol Republic: The Global Emergence of Girl Industries and the Commercialization of Girl Bodies.” Journal of Gender Studies 20.4 (2011): 333-345. DOI: 10.1080/09589236.2011.617604

Videos

YYgurl. “FinKL, SES, Baby VOX, HOT- Group Concert (1).” YouTube. 25 Oct 2008. https://youtu.be/uMvA8NTH3A0 (28 Jul 2017).

Infinite: Nothing’s Over

Infinite: Nothing’s Over

by Crystal S. Anderson, PhD

Research Scholar of Cultural Studies

Longwood University

Infinite debuted in 2010, the same year as CN Blue, Teen Top and ZE:A. The group is known for their synchronized and complex choreography, Dong-woo wants the group to be known for its music as well:  “Although ‘Come Back Again’ is an old song, when you listen to it again, it’s a song that has a firm structure with plush arrangements. We matured and were able to make a mark through singing and performing great songs” (billboard).

LABELMATES

Dae Yoel & Jae Seok & Dong Hyun | Jang Jun & Young Taek | Joo Chan & So Yoon | Nam Woo Hyun | Lovelyz | Jisun | Joo

COLLABORATIONS

  1. INFINITE X EXO (2014 KBS Song Festival) | 2. INFINITE X N.EX.T X EXO X Beast (2014 KBS Song Festival) | 3. INFINITE X Teen Top (special stage) | 4. INFINITE X Super Junior X 4minute X f(x) (2011 KBS Music Festival) | 5. INFINITE X Lovelyz | 6. INFINITE X Teen Top (Music Bank K-Chart)

Image

alice101. “INFINITE reveal which artists they want to collaborate with.” allkpop. 7 Oct 2016. http://www.allkpop.com/article/2016/10/infinite-reveal-which-artists-they-want-to-collaborate-with (28 Jul 2017).

Articles

Benjamin, Jeff. “Meet INFINITE: Video Q&A with Rising K-pop Superstars.” Billboard. 29 Jan 2013. http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/k-town/1535974/meet-infinite-video-qa-with-the-rising-k-pop-superstars (29 Jul 2017).

Video

KBS World TV. “INFINITE & EXO – Collaboration [2014 KBS Song Festival / 2015.01.14].” YouTube. 25 Jan 2015. https://youtu.be/5ygpBlBxmP4  (28 Jul 2017).

KBS World TV. “N.EX.T & EXO & INFINITE & Beast – Shin Hae-chul’s Tribute [2014 KBS Song Festival / 2015.01.14].” YouTube. 24 Jan 2015. https://youtu.be/kV5DG27jWaU (28 Jul 2017).

enj ch. “[HD]Infinite & Teen Top – To You @Special stage.” YouTube. 18 Aug 2012. https://youtu.be/xBMtXACqAK0 (28 Jul 2017).

Hope Song. “111230 Super Junior INFINITE 4minute fx Shuffle Dance on 2011 KBS Music Festival 720.” YouTube. 7 Jul 2012. https://youtu.be/jh_4aKsUz3s (28 Jul 2017).

Lovelyz Turkey. “131227 INFINITE – Man in Love with Lovelyz.” YouTube. 6 Nov 2014. https://youtu.be/LO3ZTyRomcE (28 Jul 2017).

KBS World TV. “[Music Bank K-Chart] INFINITE & TEEN TOP – The Chaser & To You (2012.06.29).” YouTube. 3 Jul 2012. https://youtu.be/PPqmMc-lrdc (28 Ju 2017).

 

The Music of 2PM

The Music of 2PM

by Crystal S. Anderson, PhD

2PM’s albums consistently blend R&B-inspired tracks and party songs.

Reviewers do not have consensus on 01:59PM (2009), 2PM’s first album, and Go Crazy (2014). Critical response to the first album suggests that the group was still looking to establish its sound and make use of the individual talents of its members.  Reviewers liked the promotional track, “Heartbeat,” as well as the non-promotional track, “I Was Crazy About You.” Random J says:  ““The military style drums line and smooth piano melody provide a nice musical back drop and the 2PM boys sound strong. This is probably the song on the album where their vocals are strongest” (Random J-pop)Yeeun focuses on the rhythm:  “The steady bass riff physically causes my heart to race as if my pulse was attempting to catch up with the beat of the song” (Yeeun2Grace).   Reviewers of Go Crazy liked the title track, “Go Crazy,” as well as the non-promotional track “Mine,” linking it to artists like Michael Jackson and Prince. A reviewer for Adrienne Stanley says the song “delivers the album into the territory of ’90s inspired R&B, with lyrics by Chansung and Taecyeon. The track channels the sound of artists like Michael Jackson, in a unique and infectious way” (KPopStarz). L suggests that the song “caters to an adult party where everything is slow and sexy. I’m especially partial to the falsetto throughout the chorus as a nod to legendary funk artist, Prince.” (Critical K-pop).

Grown (2013) is 2PM’s most favorably reviewed album. There is critical consensus for “A.D.T.O.Y. (All Day I Think About You )” and “Come Back When You Hear This Song”, but reviewers liked several other tracks on the album. 2PM reaches a sonic achievement with the ballad “Love Song.” Cheyanne draws attention to the unique rhythm:  ““The beat behind their singing in this song is really different to the average K-pop fan. It has this live band vibe to it even though there wasn’t a live band present” (Soju and Koolaid) Krusty95 focuses on the vocals:  “This song had started so strongly. But, it was definitely the chorus with Wooyoung and Junho, singing together for the first time like ever (as I can recall) in the history of 2PM’s music, that sold me already and consolidated its position as my most loved song on the album” (The World of Krusty).  With “I’m Sorry,” 2PM solidifies its R&B credentials.  Cheyanne notes:  “I have to say, they really made a great song for the R&B fans out there. I would never expect a group like 2PM to pull off a song like this. All their voices fit really well with the beat. The harmonizing that is done by some members during their parts add a special, nostalgic feeling to those fans who like music like this.” seoulbeats focuses on the vocals:  “Those slides and slight harmonies in the chorus are to die for. For once, I don’t actually want to chuck the rap out the window, because here, it provides a nice break in all the “smooth like butter” vocal lines.”

Hands Up (2011) was equally well-received. In addition to its titular track, the album also features several tracks that attracted reviewers attention. Jessie Zhao declares “Like a Movie” the best track of the album:  “It starts out all calm and soothing with the members’ beautiful vocals. A gorgeous piano melody is slowly combined with snare drums and the feeling builds up. This track could have easily been labeled as another ballad that a group inserts just for the heck of it, but with the harmonious vocals from 2PM and amazing composition, this track is able to stand out” (Ningin).  Arnold Artega describes “Don’t You Know” as a quintessential K-pop song: “It’s not trying too hard to sound Western like a lot of Kpop tends to do. Instead, 2PM polishes what Korean pop music is all about and lays down some catchy (but not gimmicky) melodies that are less pretentious and way more fun to jive to” (One Kpop).

However, 2PM has also mastered the up-tempo party track.  “Magic” from No.5 (2015) foregrounds its instrumentation. Eric_r_wirsing notes the song ““starts with insistent horns and has an urgent tone to it. It never loses its body-moving groove throughout, and there’s some hints of guitars in here as well. It’s a powerful, catchy tune and is just what the doctor ordered to shake things up some” (allkpop).  Elaine Lewis echoes this sentiment:  “The horns used in the song were amazing and definitely sped the tempo a little bit giving it a sense of urgency. The lyrics are also very flirty and playful” (Amino Apps).

Spotlight Tracks: 1. Heartbeat | 2. Go Crazy | 3. I Was Crazy About You | 4. Mine | 5. Love Song | 6. A.D.T.O.Y (All Day I Think About You | 7. I’m Sorry | 8. Come Back When You Hear This Song | 9. Magic | 10. Like A Movie | 11. Don’t You Know

Sources

Image

“2PM – Grown (Photoshoot).” K-pop. 10 May 2013. http://kpop-u-luv.blogspot.com/2013/05/2pm-grown-photoshoot.html. (7 Aug 2016)

 

Reviews

Artega, Arnold. 2012. “[Review] ‘Hands Up’ by 2PM.” Review of Hands Up, by 2PM. One Kpop, January 23, http://onekpop.com/693/review-hands-up-by-2pm/.

Cheyanne. 2013. “A Review on 2PM’s Album: Grown.” Review of Grown, by 2PM. Soju and Koolaid, May, http://sojuandkoolaid.blogspot.com/2013/05/a-review-on-2pms-album-grown.html.

Eric_r_wirsing. 2015. “[Album Review] 2PM.” Review of No. 5, by 2PM. allkpop, June 15, http://www.allkpop.com/review/2015/06/album-review-2pm-no-5.

Guest. 2013. “2PM, Let’s See How Much You’ve Grown.” Review of Grown, by 2PM. seoulbeats, May13, http://seoulbeats.com/2013/05/2pm-lets-see-how-much-youve-grown/.

Krusty95. “2PM ‘Grown’ Album Review.” Review of Grown, by 2PM. The World of Krusty, June 11, https://theworldofkrusty.wordpress.com/2013/06/11/2pm-grown-album-review/.

L. 2014. “Review: 2PM’s Go Crazy!” Review of Go Crazy, by 2PM. Critical K-pop, October 10, http://www.criticalkpop.com/2014/10/review-2pms-go-crazy.html.

Lewis, Elaine. 2016. “2PM – No.5 Album Review.” Review of No.5, by 2PM. K-pop Amino, January 9, http://aminoapps.com/page/k-pop/9888602/2pm-no-5-album-review.

Random J. 2010. “Album Review: 2PM – 1:59PM.” Review of 01:50PM, by 2PM. Random JPop, January 4, http://randomjpop.blogspot.com/2010/01/album-review-2pm-159pm.html.

Stanley, Adrienne. 2014. “Album Review: 2PM Delivers Jazzy Party Tracks on ‘Go Crazy![Audio].” Review of Go Crazy, by 2PM. KPopStarz, Sept 15, http://www.kpopstarz.com/articles/111688/20140915/album-review-2pm-delivers-jazzy-party-tracks-on-go-crazy-audio.htm.

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The Music of 2PM by Crystal S. Anderson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Shinhwa: Music and Video

Shinhwa: Music and Video
Shinhwa

By Crystal S. Anderson, PhD

Associate Professor of English, Longwood University

Shinhwa’s longevity is in part due to the quality and consistency of their music production seen in their comeback releases.

The Return is Shinhwa’s highly anticipated release following a four-year hiatus. Overall, critics note a  dual nature to the album, juxtaposing the classic sound of the group with more contemporary flourishes. Many praise “Venus” as the title track.  “On the Road” elicited positive reviews as well. Jung Bae (hellokpop) notes that the track “is an unexpected Brit-rock track, courtesy of Shin Hye-sung; while he rightfully takes control of the track, the other members join in and do their parts.” Nicole Rivera (Pop Reviews Now) notes the simplicity of the track, “with soft drum rolls laced with a pretty piano line and some cymbals here and there, before a very low-key verse that just spirals into this tear-jerkingly stunning chorus.” Testamentvm‘s (McRoth’s Residence) description of “Red Carpet” focuses on “its clubby supersaw lead and progressive house anthem,” while Rivera focuses on “the presence of a melody, and how the vocals deliver it in relation to the rest of the song.”  Jung Bae was impressed with “Let It Go,” which breaks “ballad molds and instead opting for a deceptively uptempo melody powered by electric guitar.”

Reviews of We are mixed. There was no critical consensus on the best tracks on the album aside from “Sniper,” the title track. Pakman (allkpop) identifies musical key elements:  “The whistle by itself is enough to pique anyone’s interest. The pre-chorus and chorus is what make you stay. Those impassioned vocals, the smooth, high-pitched turns accompanied by that lean-back dance move just scream all kinds of cool. The beatboxing interwoven in the instrumentals is a total bonus and a complete throwback to the 90’s.” Tam Huynh notes the centrality of Eric, Jun Jin and Andy, the rappers of the group, on “Give It 2 Me. Guest critics for seoulbeats points out “I Gave You” as an unusual track, with its acoustic instrumentation and harmony.

Shinhwa also brings a sophistication to their music videos.  In “Sniper,” Vincenlya Susanto (The AU Review) points to how Shinhwa “is again experimental in incorporating a classic and contemporary structure not only in their sound but also in their music video settings and wardrobe choice. The music video contrasts Junjin’s typical destroyed underground set with Hyesung’s chic white maze and contemporary framed art display Eric inhabits.” Maria Hunt (Ppcorn) points to experimentation in the choreography: “The seventh and final scene is a group scene of SHINHWA accompanied by backup dancers. With the set designed as an empty dark room with a center square-raised stage, the members and dancers perform the choreography. SHINHWA is known for usually having bold and energetic dance routines, but the last couple of years have seen SHINHWA experimenting with their dance style.” Minnimonmon (Kpop On My Mind) points to the choreography for “This Love“: “All of the movements were so crisp and well-rehearsed.  Whereas a lot of dance songs with fast, complicated dance moves often feel rushed, this dance was detailed, yet very refined.  I loved the hand movements in the first chorus and how the members looked like they were tapping piano keys in their dance moves during the piano parts.”

For more commentary on Shinhwa’s music and video, see Shinhwa: Unchanging

Sources

Guest. “Shinhwa’s Comeback: The Legend and ‘The Classic’ .” seoulbeats. 23 May 2013. (28 Mar 2016)

Jung Bae. “Album Review: Shinhwa – The Return.” hellokpop. 15 April 2012. (9 Apr 2016)

Maria Hunt.”Shinhwa: ‘Sniper’ Music Video Review.”   Ppcorn.  16 Mar 2015. (28 Mar 2016)

Minnimonmon. “Shinhwa ‘This Love’ Music Video Review.” Kpop On My Mind. 2 Jun 2013.

Nicole Rivera, “Shinhwa – ‘The Return.” Pop Reviews Now. 23 Mar 2012. (9 Apr 2016).

Pakman. “[Album and MV Review] Shinhwa – ‘WE’ .” allkpop. 4 Mar 2015. (9 Apr 2016)

SHINHWA OFFICIAL. “그룹 신화 (SHINHWA) – 표적 (Sniper) _Official Music Video.”: YouTube. 25 Feb 2015. https://youtu.be/y_VJHT6y-NI (12 Jun 2017).

Tam Huynh. “Shinhwa ‘We’ Album Review.” KultScene. 4 Mar 2015. (9 Apr 2016)

Testamenvm. “[Review][Album] Shinhwa – “The Return.” McRoth’s Residence. 2 Apr 2012. (18 Jul 2012)

Vincenlya Susanto. “Music Video Review: Shinhwa ‘Sniper’ (South Korea, 2015).” The AU Review. 5 Mar 2015. (28 Mar 2015)

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Shinhwa: Music and Video by Crystal S. Anderson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Global Promotional Strategies in K-pop

Credit: Pixabay

by Crystal S. Anderson, PhD

Globalization remains key to K-pop’s spread around the world, but it is not one size fits all. As time goes on, Korean agencies adopt a range of promotional strategies to spread K-pop throughout the world.

It is not secret that K-pop utilizes globalization. Writers have sought to identify singular strategies and apply them to the entire K-pop world. In the article “The Globalization of K-pop: Korea’s Place in the Global Music Industry,” Ingyu Oh focuses on the “L” component in what she describes as the G-L-G globalization process:  “K-pop’s differentiation strategy to make the ‘L’ process attractive to a global audience is roughly threefold: (1) numbers; (2) physique; and (3) voice-dance coordination” (400).  Patrick St. Michel argues in his Atlantic article, “How Korean Pop Conquered Japan,” that “K-Pop stars out-sex their J-Pop counterparts. The members of Girls’ Generation show a fair amount of skin in their music videos, while many fans were drawn to KARA by a chunk of choreography Wikipedia dubs “the butt dance.”  He mentions BoA, but doesn’t apply this theory to explain her longtime success in Japan. His argument also does not explain the success of male groups in Japan, including TVXQ, SHINee, BigBang and 2PM.

Instead, Korean agencies use a range of strategies to promote their groups globally.

Language and Training

Oh does a good job of summarizing the training process for Korean “idol” stars: “Trainees go through vocal, dancing, language, and theatrical acting lessons for at least five hours a day in the evening after school” (402). While the results of vocal and dance training is evident in performances, language acquisition is key to appealing to global audiences because of the appearances where fans can see the group.  For example, Key from the K-pop group SHINee shows off his multi-lingual skills, sharing the group’s greeting in Chinese, Korean, English and Japanese:

Increasingly, members of K-pop groups are learning different languages. GOT7‘s member Jackson speaks Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean and English. Rookie group Varsity features members who speak Korean, Chinese, English, Arab, and French. The choice of languages that K-pop members speak is not random. They reflect areas of the world to which K-pop agencies seek to spread. While the acquisition of Chinese and Japanese would allow the group to engage with potential fans in China and Japan( the largest music markets closest to Korea), the acquisition of English, Arabic and French belie aspirations that go beyond East Asia.

Releasing tracks in Korean another language

Korean artists will debut in various countries in addition to debuting in Korea. BoA debuted in Korea, but developed a substantial career in Japan. More recent groups tend to debut in multiple countries. UP10TION debuted in Korea, China and Japan.  SF9 debuted in Korea and Japan.  UKISS also debuted in Japan after debuting in Korea. Such debuts increasingly involve releasing their  Korean tracks in other languages.  EXO releases entire albums in both Korean and Chinese. SHINee rereleased some of their most popular early Korean hits in Japanese as part of their debut in Japan, including “Juliette,” “Lucifer,” and “Replay.”

Releasing original tracks in another language

Another promotional strategy is when groups release new material solely in a different language. TVXQ have a long track record of releasing singles as well as entire albums in Japanese without a Korean counterpart, including Tense, Tone, Time and Tree. 

Foreign members of groups

Increasingly, K-pop groups are featuring foreign members. Super Junior paved the way by including Chinese member Zhou Mi and Chinese-Canadian member Henry in their subgroup, Super Junior M. Since that time, Korean agencies have been trying to gain foreign fans with the inclusion of foreign members. Rookie group Pentagon has members from other countries, including Yuto, who was born in Japan, and Yan An, who was born in China. Groups will also have Japanese stage names to reach out to foreign fans, such as Hoshi in Seventeen and Wei in UP10TION.

Rather than rely on one mode of globalization, K-pop continues to diversify its promotional strategies.

Sources

EMI Records Japan. “SHINee – JULIETTE[Japanese ver.] Music Video Full.” YouTube. 7 Apr 2011. https://youtu.be/lT-iBCuoNS4 (26 May 2017).

Kwon Yoo Shin. “TVXQ – Time Works Wonders.” YouTube. 27 Dec 2014. https://youtu.be/4vKKgAO6vBQ. (26 May 2017).

Oh, Ingyu. “The Globalization of K-pop: Korea’s Place in the Global Music Industry.” Korea Observer 44.3 (2013): 389-409.

PinkyGirlxoxo. “SHINee Key speaking in 3 languages.” YouTube. 4 Apr 2012. https://youtu.be/h0we-mNztdE (17 Apr 2017).

St. Michel, Patrick. “How Korean Pop Conquered Japan.” The Atlantic. 13 Sept 2011. https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2011/09/how-korean-pop-conquered-japan/244712/ (17 Apr 2017).

 

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Global Promotional Strategies in K-pop by Crystal S. Anderson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Data Drop: Preliminary Results for Study on Longtime and Adult K-pop Fans

Image: Pixabay
Image: Pixabay

Crystal S. Anderson, PhD
Associate Professor of English, Longwood University

Preliminary results from an academic study on individuals who have been fans of K-pop five years or longer reveals the appeal of both new and veteran groups and a focus on vocals and choreography. 192 responses collected between September 9, 2016 and November 7, 2016 are in response to the  query, “Please list your bias (i.e. favorite) K-pop groups and solo artists and briefly explain why you like them.” The entire dataset can be accessed here.

Continue reading “Data Drop: Preliminary Results for Study on Longtime and Adult K-pop Fans”

Sechs Kies: Com’Back

Sechs Kies
Sechs Kies

Crystal S. Anderson, PhD
Associate Professor of English, Longwood University

Sechs Kies is one of most popular 1st-generation male K-pop “idol” groups and contemporaries of H.O.T.Sechs Kies, means “six pebbles” in German. Original group members include leader Eun Ji Won, Lee Jae Jin, Kim Jae Duk, Kang Sung Hoon and maknae Jang Su Won.  Former group members include Ko Ji Yong. The group is also one of a handful of 1st-generation “idol” groups to make a comeback after a multi-year hiatus, signing with Big Three Korean agency YG Entertainment in 2016. The group debuted on April 15, 1997 with DSP Entertainment. Attesting to the continued popularity of the group, “Hours before the 5 p.m. concert, Sechs Kies’ fans — many of whom were in their 30s and older and some accompanied by their children — swarmed Olympic Park to see their favorites stars of their youth” (Korea Herald). Before 2016, the fandom was called Dear SechsKies Friend. After 2016, the fandom is referred to as YellowKies. 

Website:  http://www.ygfamily.com/artist/Main.asp?LANGDIV=K&ATYPE=2&ARTIDX=71

LABEL MATES

Big Bang | Psy | Mobb | Winner | IKON | Blackpink  Epik High | Akdong Musician | Lee Hi | Jinusean |

COLLABORATIONS

None

RELEVANT SOURCES

Image: 1

Articles

“Sechs Kies Calls Comeback Concert It’s ‘Dream Stage.” The Korea Herald. 12 Sept 2016, http://www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20160912000692 (3 Jan 2017).

45RPM: Boom Box

45RPM
45RPM

One of the first rap groups in South Korea, 45RPM recall the music landscape in the late 1990s: “‘Back then, there was nothing like what we call pure rap. You know how they have some sort of bridge, and then a little rap here and there. But when I started listening to LPs, I liked that with just rap, pure rap, I can express myself and thoroughly speak my mind,’ J-Kwondo said” (The Korea Herald).  Known for being staples in underground Korean hip-hop, they have collaborated with more mainstream artists, including K.Will (KpopStarz).

BASICS

Name: 45RPM, 45 revolutions per minute, the speed of vinyl music

MembersJ-Kwondo (Park Jae Jin), Smash (Lee Hyun Bae)

Debut: 1999

LabelYG Entertainment (2005 – ?)

FandomSa-Sip-Oh (45 in Korean)

Website: N/A

LABEL MATES

N/A

COLLABORATIONS

  1. 45RPM X DJ Doc. 리기동 + STREET LIFE Performance | 2. 45RPM X DJ Soulscape: 붐박스 [Boom Box] MV | 3. 45RPM X Lee Seung Hwan: This Is Love MV | 4. 45RPM X LOCO: Performance on Mnet K-pop

RELEVANT SOURCES

Image: 1

“45RPM Still Here and Not Going Anywhere.” The Korea Herald. 22 Dec 2013. http://www.koreaherald.com/common_prog/newsprint.php?ud=20131222000132&dt=2, (3 Jan 2017).  
Jackie Chung. “Group 45RPM Releases New Song Featuring K.Will.” 15 May 2015. http://www.kpopstarz.com/articles/201427/20150515/hip-hop-45rpm-releases-new-song-love-affair-with-k-wills-featuring.htm, (3 Jan 2017).